Cognition, Technology & Work

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 221–229

Distributed situation awareness in an Airborne Warning and Control System: application of novel ergonomics methodology


  • Rebecca Stewart
    • Lockheed Martin UKIS
    • BITlab, School of Engineering and DesignBrunel University
  • Don Harris
    • Human Factors Groups, School of EngineeringCranfield University
  • Chris Baber
    • Department of Electrical and Electronic EngineeringUniversity of Birmingham
  • Paul Salmon
    • BITlab, School of Engineering and DesignBrunel University
  • Mel Mock
    • SEA Ltd
  • Kerry Tatlock
    • SEA Ltd
  • Linda Wells
    • Aerosystems International
  • Alison Kay
    • Human Factors Groups, School of EngineeringCranfield University
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10111-007-0094-8

Cite this article as:
Stewart, R., Stanton, N.A., Harris, D. et al. Cogn Tech Work (2008) 10: 221. doi:10.1007/s10111-007-0094-8


This paper applies a distributed theory of situation awareness based upon the analysis of interactions between agents (both human and non-human) in an Airborne Warning and Control System (Boeing E3D Sentry). The basic tenet of this approach is that agents within a system each hold their own component(s) of situation awareness, which may be very different from, but compatible with, other agent’s view of the situation. However, it is argued that it is not always necessary to have complete sharing of this awareness, as different system agents have different purposes. Situation awareness is regarded as a dynamic and collaborative process that binds agents together on tasks on a moment-by-moment basis. Situation awareness is conceptualised as residing at a system, not an individual level. Data were collected from crew-members in theE3D during a series of simulated air battles. These data pertained to task structure, communications between the crew and the collection and analysis of crew actions at critical decision points. All phases of operations were considered. From these data propositional networks were developed in which key knowledge objects were identified. Analysis of these networks clearly shows how the location and nature of distributed situation awareness changes across agents with regard to the phase of operation/air battle.


AgentsSystemsTheoryCommand and controlSATeams

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2007